Cortines doubles number of direct reports in LAUSD overhaul
Vanessa Romo | December 18, 2014
Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for the LA School Report newsletter.
John Deasy was often described by critics as an autocrat in how he ran the district. Nine senior aides reported to him directly.
That was nothing. In the two months since taking over, his replacement, Ramon Cortines, has doubled the number of LA Unified officials under his direct supervision. He has 18 aides reporting to him directly.
The change came early this month when the district circulated a new organizational chart of top district management. In another realignment, Cortines continued the expansion of some departments while eliminating others.
Taken together, the changes throw into relief the differences in management styles between the two men: Where Deasy had a handful of people delivering information from the bottom up, Cortines prefers a more hands-on approach with direct contact.
In a letter to the board that accompanied the new organizational charter, Cortines offered no specifics as to why he was making so many changes, other than to say they would “continue the trajectory of stability and calmness that our schools and support staff depend on.”
The most notable changes within the top tier, which took effect on Dec. 1, affect Matt Hill and Donna Muncey. Hill’s job as Chief Strategy Officer has already undergone some alterations under Coritnes, after the resignation of the district’s Chief Information Officer, Ron Chandler. A month ago, Hill was asked to share oversight of MISIS, but he has since been pulled off of that project to oversee the Information Technology Department.
Aside from his experience with the district in managing the development and troubled rollout of MISIS, it is unclear what experience Hill has in running an IT department. Prior to his career in education, Hill worked in Black & Decker’s business development group. He’s also been a strategy consultant in the financial services industry.
Muncey’s name has been wiped from the organizational chart altogether. She was one of the handful of people who’d reported directly to Deasy as the district’s Chief of Intensive Support and Intervention. But Cortines has discontinued that department, and most of the functions handled by Muncey’s office have been taken over by the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and School Support lead by Ruth Perez, who has become Muncey’s boss.
Just one month ago, Diane Pappas reported to work as an attorney at the General Counsel’s office. Now, she’s leading the MISIS recovery effort.
Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana has gotten a huge promotion and a heaping of responsibilities. Melendez started her career with the district as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s education advisor but was quickly relieved of her ties to City Hall and was given a position as second-in-command for Beyond the Bell, a division that oversees after-school programs.
After remaining under the radar for the past nine months, Melendez is taking over the newly formed office of the Chief Executive Officer, Educational Services. Melendez will be in charge of food services, transportation services, procurement services (formerly under the Facilities Division), school operations, student health and human services, adult education, and Beyond the Bell. Michael Romero will serve as Melendez’s Executive Officer.
In a letter to the school board dated Dec 4, Cortines explained that Melendez’s new department “has absorbed some of the functions of the former Office of the Chief Operating Officer, which has been discontinued after the retirement of Enrique Boull’t.”
Thomas Waldman is back at the Communications and Media Relations Office to co-lead the department with Lydia Ramos. In August, Waldman was given a newly created post as Executive Director of Board Communications, now he and Ramos will serve the board of education and the Office of the Superintendent together.
The three branches of the Educational Service Centers (ESCs) — Instruction, Operations, and Parent Engagement — will report to the ESC Superintendents. “It is my belief that you cannot separate instruction form the environment in which students learn and educators teach,” Cortines wrote.
More changes are still to come. Cortines told the board members “will receive organization charts for the direct report to the Superintendent by the end of January 2015.